Eastern Elementary educators challenge transfer maneuvers

Published 1:44 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2007

By Staff
Their supporters wait out lengthy executive session
News Editor
After more than three and a half hours in closed session Monday night, the Beaufort County Board of Education transferred one veteran teacher from Eastern Elementary School and gave another educator one more year there.
First-grade teacher Theresa Oakey and kindergarten teacher Roxanne Beeman appealed moves that would have transferred them to John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School. Oakey was reassigned. Beeman was allowed to stay in her classroom at Eastern Elementary School, but her assignment there may be reviewed at the end of next school year. Reading-recovery teacher Paula Willey and speech teacher Connie Smithwick were also transferred. Willey and Smithwick did not appeal that decision.
Parents, many with their children in tow, lined the hallway of Beaufort County Schools’ central office, waiting hours for word on the fate of Oakey and Beeman. They took shifts peeking through the tiny panes of glass on the meeting room doors, trying to read lips and figure out what was happening. They would get a verdict around 9:15 p.m.
The school board was scheduled to begin its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, but convened early, some time after a Building and Grounds Committee meeting adjourned around 5:30 p.m. Many of the people who expected to be able to address the board at 6 p.m. found closed doors instead.
Around 6:20 p.m., Raleigh attorney Johnathan Blumberg emerged from the meeting. There to advise the school board, Blumberg said the meeting was closed because of personnel matters and to protect the board’s attorney-client privilege.
Jane McCotter, an instructor at Beaufort County Community College, said she came in support of both teachers.
Larry Hinsley’s son John is in the middle of a “looping” class that Beeman teaches. Under the looping system, one teacher has the same group of elementary-school aged children for two years in a row. Beeman taught the younger Hinsley in kindergarten and will teach him again in first grade.
Advocates said they believe the teachers are being transferred for supporting the looping system.
Carlos Arballo waited outside the meeting room door with his daughter, Sandy. He had come straight from work and was still waiting after 9 p.m.
When Beeman emerged from the meeting to tell parents the board would rescind its decision to move her, she received hearty applause.
When Oakey emerged, there was no announcement, just shaking heads.
Oakey was a “looping” teacher, too, but she was not in the middle of a cycle with her students, school board Chairman Robert Belcher said after the meeting.
Smithwick did not have the option to appeal her move away from Eastern Elementary School because she is a contract worker, Belcher said.
If Oakey appeals her reassignment now, that appeal will have to go to court, Belcher said.